I have always only thought positively about what my births would be. I am surrounded by a cascade of medical interventions and hospital births as part of my job as a neonatal nurse, this medical picture of birth is my everyday. However I knew that this was not how I wanted to birth my babies. I knew I wanted something else but wasn’t sure what that was. Don’t get me wrong, I did worry and was concerned enough that things might “go wrong” that I choose to have my birth in a hospital, but I was determined to labor my way, safely, with as little intervention as possible.
I heard about Hypnobirthing when I was first pregnant, the idea that we could put ourselves in control of our birth and that breathing, relaxation, visualisation and the power of positive thinking would enhance our delivery seemed right up our street. This was what I had been looking for, now I had a name for it. HYPNOBIRTHING. Having the support of my partner in the role of “gatekeeper” throughout, protecting my birthing space & advocating for us when I was otherwise engaged, really appealed to me. “We are in this together”, we can do this.
This was back in 2008 & hypnobirthing was not as visible as it is today. I looked into Hypnobirthing and discovered that we could go on a course, so Chris & I signed up to a weekend course. It was everything we had hoped & we left feeling more confident & relaxed about our labor & delivery. We discovered the power of breathing, positive imagery and relaxation & Chris became familiar with the process of birth & how he could advocate for the birth we wanted & protect our environment.
I was excited and tried to share this with my colleagues but a lot of them thought I was naive & that it was unrealistic to think that I could birth my baby without intervention and pain relief. I stubbornly ignored them & continued to share my views & quietly got on with being pregnant. We listened to the CD, practiced guided imagery, wrote our script & waited, not very patiently, for our baby to arrive.
Because of what I do I was nervous about going over my “due date” so had agreed with my midwife to have a sweep on my due date. I had this with no noticeable effect. So we booked another for 6 days later. On Monday 21 July 2008, we caught the tube to the hospital, with just my handbag.
We were expecting to just have a sweep & then go home…
I was examined by a Dr & told that I was 3cm dilated, really, did that mean I was in labor & didn’t know it? I was given another sweep, which was VERY uncomfortable, and told that I was going to be admitted when a bed became available. How exciting, today we were having our baby.
Chris went back home to get our things & I went for a walk along the South Bank. Some time between walking & getting a bed my contractions started, quietly. I was confident in my breathing & had been listening to my CD and practicing my relaxation but I really wanted Chris with me.
I walked into the hospital at 12ish, was introduced to my midwife and settled into my room. I turned off the lights moved all the unnecessary equipment out of the way, drew the curtain around the resucitaire & kept moving around the room. All the while my contractions were continuing, but they were nothing I couldn’t handle. When Chris arrived back with all our things I was in the bathroom, in the dark focusing on my breathing.
At some point it became necessary for me to have continual monitoring, my midwife was great, still letting me move around & position myself where I felt comfortable. She never interrupted me to “assess” me or tell me to get on the bed. This allowed me to focus on my breathing & use the hypnobirthing techniques to relax and stay calm. This gave me confidence & kept the atmosphere in the room relaxed and I felt safe & supported. In the end I was most comfortable kneeling on the bed, resting between contractions. The time between contractions didn’t seem long at all. And then 4 hours and 45 mins later after not much pushing, but a very memorable “Ring of Fire” Fin was born. I helped to pull him out (catch him as he fell out with the help of gravity) and then held him skin-to-skin, uninterrupted.
AMAZING. He was here! Weighing 3.4kgs. Love him.
I can honestly say I loved every second of his birth (I know, my labor was relatively quick). I was able to have him with no pain relief (not even a paracetemol), have skin to skin straight away, establish breastfeeding & go home 6 hours after he was born. At no stage was I scared of the pain (this was true throughout my pregnancy) I knew what that pain was and what it meant and that it was bringing my baby closer to me. I have no doubt that my amazing labor & delivery was directly related to the skills & confidence I had in my body’s abilities that I gained from hypnobirthing & I don’t hesitate to share this with anyone who will listen (and those that don’t).
Let me tell you a little story. When I was a student midwife 10 years ago I was looking after a woman with my mentor who has having a ‘hypnobirth’. This term was a bit alien to me and it certainly didn’t sit well with some midwives and doctors. ‘Surges how ridiculous’ laughed some members of staff in the staff room at hand over. ‘Labour is painful there’s no way she can think it isn’t going to be’ remarked the anaesthetist. I was young and inexperienced but trusted my mentor as we continued to support this woman and partner through their birth.
Skip forward 9 years and Hypnobirthing is something I’ve seen become more and more popular in birth. It is single-handedly changing birth in more ways than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I witnessed women birth their babies so peacefully that I didn’t even think they were in labour. I’ve seen women had to change their plan from a home birth to a hospital birth because of complications but remain calm, and in control through the transition. I’ve also supported women who have been so traumatised by their first birth who have used hypnobirthing techniques to over come their fears and gone on to have wonderful second time births. At no point did I hear any whale music or see Paul McKenna appear with a pocket watch. No vagina whispering or an incense stick in sight. And on a personal note I had an induction with my second daughter, yes it was a water birth but it was horribly painful, sometimes violent and I felt at times totally out on control. If only I learnt some hypnobirthing techniques to help me ‘let go’ of that fear.
What is The Calm Birth School?
The Calm Birth School is the world’s first hypnobirthing video program. It’s a four-week antenatal home study program – combining the core principles of hypnobirthing and active birth – training women and their birth partners to create calm, joyful births from anywhere in the world.
How did the idea of a video course come about?
A lot of women will find hypnobirthing classes near them, and we both love teaching women face-to-face and have been doing so for a number of years. However, in this time we’ve had lots of enquiries from all around the world from women who can’t find a practitioner near them, or women who don’t have the time to travel to a weekly class. We have responded to this need with The Calm Birth School home study program, by bringing our tried and tested techniques to you, so that you can enjoy the benefits of hypnobirthing in a way that suits your lifestyle and location.
Hollie, can you tell us a bit more about you and Suzy?
For a start, we’re every day mums on a mission. We don’t knit our own houmous or henna lotus flowers on our bellies. We like a G&T and the odd round of disco dancing, and yes, we sometimes pick Wotsits out of our kids’ noses. In fact before having our own children, our lives were far removed from breathing techniques and relaxation, as we both had busy careers in the media and design industries. For both of us though, having our own positive, euphoric, comfortable births (which believe me, I didn’t think was possible!) made us want to spread the word of hypnobirthing and stop women dreading birth. From that, we have been independently running our own hypnobirthing classes in London since 2011, and have now joined forces to create The Calm Birth School – providing a holistic and flexible approach to women’s antenatal care. I live in West Dulwich with my husband and son, Oscar, and Suzy lives down the road in Ladywell with her husband and two children, Caesar and Coco.
A lot of people are put off by the term hypnobirthing, what would you say to that?
In creating The Calm Birth School we wanted to dispel the myths of what people think hypnobirthing is. Yes it sounds weird, but drawing on our professional experience of working with hundreds of pregnant couples, we’ve been able to tailor make our own program and cut out the fluff. No vagina-whispering, kumbaya-singing, goddess-channeling nonsense. Just scientifically-proven calming and relaxation techniques, so that you know what is happening in your body and how to work with it.
You sound pretty fired up about this.
You can say that again! We know birth can be different to what the media is intent on showing us. We know it can be comfortable and calm and we know birth is changing. Suzy and I are totally committed to creating positive births all over the world. We’re on a mission to reduce the birthing horror stories, one informed woman at a time, and that’s why we’ve created this virtual course – so women and their partners can empower themselves and learn these incredible techniques without taking their slippers off.
Is it just designed for those planning home births?
No way. Whether you’re planning a hospital, home, or midwife-led birth, The Calm Birth School will guide you and your partner through our unique method for creating a smooth birth experience…all from the ease of your armchair. So that for the rest of your pregnancy, you’ll feel fearless, not freaked out! Whilst we love a home birth, we understand that they’re not for everyone, and we believe that the best place for you to birth is where you feel the most safe, comfortable and private. Your birth environment is paramount to a great birth, but we will educate you on your choices and teach you how to create your nest wherever you choose to birth.
Is the course only for first time mums?
Absolutely not. The Calm Birth School home study program is for everyone. Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, our unique program will equip you with the tools for the empowering birth experience you deserve. In fact, our techniques have been proven to help mums who’ve had previous traumatic birth experiences overcome these to change their birth this time around.
So how exactly does this video course work?
Well unlike all of your other pregnancy-related appointments, we come to you! The Calm Birth School program is a video course that will be delivered to your inbox once a week for four weeks. That’s 12 short videos split into 4 classes, so that learning the secrets of positive birth can fit into the nooks and crannies of your day. And to make sure you don’t miss out on the benefits of a face-to-face class, you’ll feel completely taken care of in our private Facebook group where you can connect with other pregnant couples, and with our bi-weekly teleconferences.
Does The Calm Birth School guarantee a pain-free birth?
No, we can’t make claims quite that bold. Birth is a natural physiological event and as such there are many affecting factors that can be out of our control. What we can guarantee is that you will feel more prepared for a better birth, and a positive birth experience. In our eyes, hypnobirthing is about controlling what you can, and letting go of what you can’t.
We will teach you some amazing techniques that will stimulate the production of your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, but as with anything, the more practice you put in, the more effective these techniques will be on your baby’s birth day. That said, in our experience, around 76% of the mums we’ve taught have given birth with NO pain relief whatsoever.
We are so excited about the launch of The Calm Birth School, that for the next 14 days we have a very special gift for you. We are giving away FREE hypnobirthing classes that you can enjoy in the comort of your own home. Click on this link to claim your classes today!http://bit.ly/freehypnobirthing
Eating a healthy diet helps one derive all the minerals and vitamins that the body needs. There is a direct link between the food we eat and our body health. Proper nutrition equals good health. This is common during pregnancy since effects of proper nutrition can be seen both in the mother and the baby during and even after pregnancy.
The following are the essential Vitamins and Minerals during pregnancy:
Pregnancy can exhaust a mother’s iron stores. Iron is a vital nutrient since it’s used in formation of hemoglobin in the red blood cells of the mother and the infant. Its intake increases with pregnancy due to increase in blood volume as the pregnancy progresses. – Iron can be obtained from plant and animal products. Absorption of iron is better when taken from animal foods as compared to plant foods Red meat contains the most source of iron as compared to other animal foods such as chicken and fish Iron can also be obtained from dark green vegetables, legumes and cereals. -Taking a glass of fruit juice or food rich in vitamin C after a meal containing iron nutrients increases the absorption of iron into the body as compared to taking a cup of tea or coffee which in fact reduces iron absorption. – Iron deficiency leads to anemia which can result in a. premature birth; b. low birth weight; c. weakness; and d. over-tiredness of mothers.
In pregnancy, vitamin D do not only strengthen a mother’s bones but also provides the baby with vitamin D nutrients which are very important during the first trimester. A mother should take at least 10mcg of vitamin D in a day. Vitamin D also helps regulate the level of calcium and phosphorus in the body hence leading to strong bones and teeth both to the mother and the baby. -The best source of vitamin D is direct sunlight. However, other foods such as breakfast cereals, eggs, fish liver oil, fatty fish and fortified milk contain vitamin D. -Lack of sufficient vitamin D leads to a. softened baby bones; b. rickets; c. retardation; d. skeletal deformation; and e. likelihood of C-section for mothers.
Calcium is important in strengthening a baby’s bones and teeth. It’s also important in development of the nervous system and in muscle contraction in the fetus. On the other hand, it strengthens a mother’s bones, teeth, improves blood clotting and reduces chances of hypertension. Moreover, it’s a natural pain relief during labor for mothers. -Dairy products and fish with edible bones contain a lot of calcium. Breakfast cereals, dried fruits and leafy vegetables also contain calcium nutrients. -Calcium intake levels increases with pregnancy. Calcium deficiency leads to pregnancy and developmental complications in the fetus.
It’s a type of vitamin B which is useful for infant growth and development especially for brain and nervous system development of an infant in the first trimester. Its requirements are more in pregnancy because of the developing baby in the womb. When taken before and during pregnancy, it reduces risks of neural tube defects in pregnancy. -Sources of folic acid are dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, liver, broccoli, pulses, cauliflower and walnuts. -Folic acid intake levels decreases as the pregnancy lengthens. Shortage in intake of folic acid leads to anemia and other birth defects.
There are also supplements of these minerals and vitamins available in maternal hospitals to help mothers maintain right levels of minerals and vitamins consumption throughout pregnancy. With the help of the European health insurance card, a mother can access maternal advice on proper nutrition during pregnancy and even obtain the above minerals and vitamin supplements at the expense of the card.
BabyMouse was scheduled to be born by caesarean section on 17th March, due to the fact that she was breech and because of her needing to be born a bit early because of the potential dangers of me having obstetric cholestasis. [That was a long sentence, sorry. This is a long post, and is a bit of a 'mind splurge' so may not be entirely coherent.] However, things did not go entirely to plan…
On 25th February, we went to our usual Tuesday appointment at the hospital in London, saw the midwives and the obstetricians, showed my parents around the hospital so they knew where to go when the time came for the birth, and went home, all without incident. When we got home, we had dinner and watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (an excellent film) on DVD. At about 9.30 pm, I decided to go to bed early because I was (as usual) feeling rather tired. I got into bed. At about 10.00 pm, I turned over in bed and [apologies for too much information] thought I’d wet myself, although it didn’t really feel like that. I went to the toilet and realised that this was not the case – it was actually that my waters were breaking! I sat on the toilet for a while – every time I went to get up more ‘water’ came out and I didn’t want to make the floors wet – and called for Mr C to let him know what was happening. He rang the hospital who, in true traditional fashion,told us to stay at home, wait another hour and take a paracetamol! To be fair to the midwife who answered the phone, Mr C didn’t tell her my medical history, and I wasn’t in pain at that time, so she had no reason to tell us to come in, although at the time I was rather cross and decided this wasn’t on and rang the hospital again. I spoke to someone else and told them about all the complications, and that we were going to come in straightaway, to which she agreed.
We called a taxi, which, thankfully. arrived within about five minutes. Mr C packed up all the things we might need – he already had a bag ready and just had to add a few last minute things. I took a towel with me because I didn’t want to make the taxi seat wet! I explained to the taxi driver that I thought I was in labour, and he was totally nonplussed!
When we got to the maternity triage they monitored the baby to make sure she was OK. This took about 20 minutes, by which time the pain had got much worse and it was confirmed that I was definitely in labour. By the time the obstetrician examined me I was already 7-8 centimetres dilated. We rang the London hospital to let them know what was happening and they talked about possibly arranging a transfer to them from the local hospital, but in the event there was no time for that! We were going to have to deliver the baby at the local hospital – at this point it was still the plan to do a caesarean and I was taken to the delivery suite to be prepared for this. Needless to say, I was in a bit of a state by this point; mainly because of the pain of the contractions, but also because I was worried that the people in the local hospital wouldn’t be able to deal with all my complications – the plans we’d set in place had gone out of the window and we were entering (even more) unknown territory…
The anaesthetist came to talk to me about pain relief, and asked me lots of questions which I found difficult to answer because I couldn’t think or talk very well due to the increasing pain and frequency of contractions. The anaesthetist was lovely, and waited for me to answer her questions in the bits of time where I wasn’t in pain, and was very clear in what she said, as well as taking the time to listen to my concerns about things, Luckily we had the delivery plan from the London hospital in my notes, and I let someone know about this so they could see what drugs I was allowed (or not), and the different methods of monitoring that were required. (I have to be monitored more closely because of my heart condition).
We went to one of the maternity theatres, and I could see all the surgical instruments being laid out for (I still assumed) the caesarean. There were about eight medical people in the theatre, as well as Mr C, who was now decked out in green scrubs and a surgical mask. He tried to help me breathe through the contractions. I had got to the point where I didn’t think I could carry on because the pain was so bad, and was gulping in lots of gas and air. I’m not sure that this helped with the pain, but it was a distraction, and helped my regulate my breathing,
Because it was in the original plan drawn up with the people in London, the anaesthetists tried to put in an arterial line – this gives more accurate blood pressure readings and can also be used to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Having an arterial line inserted hurts – fortunately I was given local anaesthetic (which also hurt, but I assume not as much as if I’d been able to feel the line going in) every time they tried to put it in, because they tried to insert the line lots of times before finally giving up due to my arteries refusing to cooperate and at the request of Mr C who told them there was no point trying to continue.
Another factor in stopping the attempts at insert the arterial line was the fact that BabyMouse was now well and truly on her way out! A c-section was no longer an option, so we were going for a natural delivery for a breech baby, something that is rarely attempted nowadays. I was given a spinal block to numb everything that needed to be numbed – it was such a relief not to be able to feel anything! It was now about 2.00 am and I was put into position on my back, leaning on a wedge-shaped cushion with my legs in stirrups. Not very dignified. It was now about 2.00 am and time to bear down and help BabyMouse out! It was very odd trying to bear down when I couldn’t feel anything, and it was hard to take deep enough breaths and let them out slowly enough when I was pushing.
The doctor actually delivering BabyMouse was lovely (in fact all the staff were lovely) and calm and he talked me though each push, and everyone else in the room helped me to know how long to push for. One of the midwives had her hand on my tummy, feeling for each contraction and telling me when to be ready and breathe. At about 2.25 am, BabyMouse was born! She weighed about 5lb. I had a quick glimpse of her just after she arrived and then she went over to the nurses, as she needed a bit of help with her breathing. Mr C went over with her. A few seconds later we heard her cry, which was a big relief. Someone showed her to me again for a second or two, and then she went to the special care baby unit. I delivered the placenta and the obstetrician dealt with my bleeding – unfortunately this was quite heavy as my heart condition meant that couldn’t have the usual amount of the drug used to contract the womb.
Once the bleeding was under control, I was taken to a recovery room. As is my wont after anaesthetics and/or traumatic medical procedures I spent the next hour or so shaking quite violently. (I’m not actually sure what causes the shaking – maybe just adrenalin.) My oxygen was quite low so they gave me some more, and I also had some tea and toast. Mr C went to see BabyMouse in the special care unit. The nurses took a photo of her which he brought to show me. It was lovely to see her, if only in a picture.
After a while I was taken to the high dependency unit overnight so I could be monitored closely. The next day I was moved to the maternity ward. BabyMouse stayed in an incubator in the special care unit for three days, as she had trouble maintaining her temperature. She was fed through a tube for the first week or so of her life, because she was so early she didn’t have enough energy to take milk herself. Once she was able to maintain her temperature at the right level she was moved to the special care nursery and taken out of the incubator and put into a cot, although she sometimes had to have an overhead heater on her when she got too cold. The nursery was nice – it had murals of trees and animals all over the walls. A few days after this she moved with me to the transitional care unit, where mums and babies stay together until they’re both well enough to go home. Dads can stay as well, but they have to sleep on chairs (or on the floor if there are no spare chairs). If you’re lucky enough to get a reclining chair they’re quite comfortable, otherwise not so much. Mr C spent a few days on various floors as we moved round the hospital, but also got his fair share of reclining chairs, for which he was most grateful.
BabyMouse and I stayed in hospital for two weeks, until the staff at the hospital were satisfied that she was able to feed properly and didn’t have to have her tube in anymore, and we eventually went home on 12th March.
Before I finish this post, I would like to say that the care we received in Medway Maritime Hospital was exemplary. We could not fault it. The staff were unfailingly competent, kind and thoughtful. Most importantly, the medical staff listened to me when I had concerns, and went out of their way to find answers, reassure me, and help BabyMouse and I as much as possible. I think my experiences at Medway over the last couple of weeks were probably the best experiences of hospital I’ve ever had, and I’ve had my fair share of hospital experiences! I can’t thank the staff enough for everything they did for us. All the people we spoke to said that they also experienced a high standard of care during their stay at Medway. It’s a shame people’s good experiences don’t get reported in the press, but then I suppose that wouldn’t sell papers.
Read more about Claire and Anna over at Bookmouse
This was recently sent to me by a Hypnobirth teacher Shirley who felt that if women follow this advice no matter what road their birth takes they will have been fully informed the whole way, increasing their chances of a birth that is calm, relaxed and a positive experience. I couldn’t agree more so with permission I decided to share it with you all.
1. Learn to understand the birth process from start to finish and what factors can help and hinder it
2. Learn about your birth rights so you can make informed decisions that are best for you and baby
3. Look into your choice of place of birth ( if not at home ) and find out what their statistics are for interventions and c-sections, if these are high you should question this and maybe reconsider a different birth place
4. Find out what your place of births’s policy and procedures are. By knowing in advance you will know certain suggestions are policy and not what is necessarily best for you. Remember it’s your birth – your choice. You should never be told to do anything only be given options. Every option offered to you should include benefits and risks and should have alternatives
5. Mothers should know latest studies, show for first time mothers its safer to give birth on a Midwife Led Unit, followed by homebirth. For second or subsequent babies it’s home, then Midwife Led Unit, hospital comes third both times (The Birth Place Study)
6. Preparing your body by regular, gentle exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Birth is very physical. Everything you consume and breathe goes to your baby. Most importantly prepare your mind, the easiest way to do this is through hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing ALWAYS makes a difference. What you put in is everything!
7. Your guess date (due date) is only an approximate date, your baby will come when they are ready and just like apples on a tree they ripen at different times. There is no such thing as a late baby only different lengths of pregnancy. So smudge the date you are given into a rough estimate, 5th of May becomes late April to mid May. 27th June becomes mid June to mid July.
As any new Mum out there knows, those first few weeks with a new born is emotional, exhausting, mind blowing and all consuming. You can’t believe when the midwife comes over at mid day you’re still not dressed let alone brushed your teeth. This little 50 inch long human really does take all your time and energy, how on earth will you ever leave the house again?!
When people often ask me what are the real survival tips for those first weeks I always talk about food. Food provides a new mother with all her energy she needs for her recovery after having a baby, especially if breastfeeding. Iron rich foods for boosting those energy levels (green leafy vegetables, liver, red meat, apricots, chickpeas and lentils) are vital not to mention the importance of fibre for helping that first poo to pass! Protein rich foods too are really important for tissue healing. So if you’ve has a vaginal tear or even a c-section make sure your eating food such as eggs, milk, yoghurt, pork, chicken and turkey. Your appetite often increases in those first few days, I recall eating an entire lasagne my Mother-in-law made much to my husband’s horror.
But the one thing about trying to eat all this food is there is literally no time to cook it, you will barely manage to put some toast in the toaster. In fact we reheated so many cups of teas in those first few weeks it was a jolly good thing we owned a microwave. Those few weeks you have once you’ve finished work and before your baby arrives is a great time to start cooking and freezing lots of delicious meals. And what better way to get some fab recipes from two Mums who know what to cook
Claire and Lucy from Crumbs Food have a great new cookbook out and we have a copy of it for one lucky reader to win! In this cookbook you’ll find delicious, nutritious meals for you and the whole family, some recipes take just 5 minutes to make! From lentil soup, home made beans to tzatziki salmon pasta there is a meal idea for every hungry tired new parent.
All you have to do to enter is to tell me; what was the first thing you ate after giving birth. Whether it was a piece of white cardboard NHS toast with jam or an entire bar of Green and Blacks dark chocolate (guilty). Leave your answers in the comments box below and I’ll pick the best answer. Good luck!
When I was a little girl I always dreamt of having twins but never thought that that dream would become a reality. I was born with a rare condition called hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism that was not formally diagnosed until I was twenty one. I spent my teens at the mercy of intrusive tests and doctors that often spoke over me and left me feeling empty inside. One specific phrase was always circling my mind, ‘you may never be able to have children’. My husband Ben is the first person I ever shared this with. He was so supportive and I just knew that he was ‘the one’. After exploring treatment options we were over the moon in the summer of 2010 when I fell pregnant with our eldest daughter Eliza. It was at this time that a friend introduced us to hypnobirthing.
Ben and I used these relaxation techniques throughout my pregnancy and in preparation for Eliza’s birth. We decided to have a home water birth and in 2011 she was born safely and quickly at home, weighing a healthy 7lb 5oz. My labour was enjoyable and we were especially proud that we remained so calm despite our midwives not showing up until just thirty minutes before her birth! We had been so busy organising the pool and standing together throughout surges that neither one of us had noticed the hours drift by. At the point when the midwives arrived I was fully dilated and hadn’t realised it, I just felt the need to bear down and breath my baby out. This was my light bulb moment and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I truly loved the experience despite having a retained placenta and an unfortunate transfer to hospital for its removal in theatre.
Starting the fertility journey again for our second child was not going to be as easy as we had hoped. We were no longer entitled to funding and so had to find other avenues to provide a sibling for Eliza. I am part of many fertility networks and after following the donor journey of a friend I realised there were people out there less fortunate than ourselves that would love a child to call their own. She introduced me to egg sharing. I would undergo funded IVF but would donate half of my eggs to an anonymous couple. After many discussions and counselling sessions we decided to go ahead. Unfortunately our first IVF cycle was to be unsuccessful, as was our second, but we did have one embryo left to freeze. In the mean time we went on to try ovulation induction with injectables.
I still remember the day I tested. Finally after such a hard year there it was ‘pregnant’. I cried so much, I was so happy that we had finally made it! Due to the nature of our treatment the clinic booked me an early scan. They looked worried, ‘this may be a blighted ovum or it may just be too early’. There appeared to be a small sac but no baby on the ultra sound, I was devastated and cried all the way home. I was advised to have a re-scan in a weeks time. Ben tried to reassure me as I had had ‘some’ pregnancy symptoms, I had been feeling nauseated and swollen but wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination. When I arrived at my local hospital I was very anxious. The lady reassured me and turned the screen to face me. I could see two dark sacs. ‘Are they my swollen ovaries?’ …’no’ she said, ‘they are your babies’.
In the weeks that past I wanted to share the news but we decided to wait until the twelve week point. Straight away I started to practice hypnobirthing with my husband. We dedicated an evening a week to relaxation techniques, positive affirmations and light touch massage. We were so excited to be able to plan another homebirth, but this time with our twins! Little did we know that we were about to face some big hurdles. When I arrived to my booking appointment everything seemed fine until I saw ‘high risk’ written on my file.
High risk care meant that I would be having care between midwives and obstetricians. I had come to expect that this may be the case as others had warned me that I would not be ‘allowed’ to have a homebirth, or a water birth on the midwife led unit. It was explained that I would have to have a hospital birth on the consultant led unit, that they had a specialist room for birthing multiples. We decided to visit this space and booked a tour of the hospital. The rooms in the midwife led unit were gorgeous, spacious and welcoming. A home from home environment. The multiples room however was the only one on the consultant led unit that was not decorated. It was cold and uninviting. There was medical equipment everywhere and it looked like a dumping ground for unused equipment. In the corner was an operating table and loose tiles hung from the ceiling. As soon as the tour had finished my husband and I looked at each other. ‘There is no way we are birthing our babies in there’.
I raised my concerns with my community midwife and she put me in touch with the Supervisor of Midwives. She was great and helped us write a birth plan that would meet the consultants half way with their demands. I agreed to be on the consultant led unit but in the water birthing room, if it was available on the day. I requested to have predominantly midwife led care and interventions were to be used only if entirely necessary and the reasons for these were to be clearly explained to my husband and I so that we could make informed decisions on my babies birthing day. I decided to decline continuous monitoring and the siting of epidurals and canulas as these would prevent me birthing in the water. Instead I opted for intermittent monitoring and water and/or gas and air to help with any discomfort I may feel. I was confident that I could birth my babies naturally and I expressed how important it was that I felt comfortable in my birthing environment to aid this process. I knew from my first experience of birth that I would want to be active and birthing upright, even if this was not possible in water when the day came. I explained the importance of my hypnobirthing techniques and creating a relaxing environment to birth in. That these wishes needed to be respected and requested that my husband and doula were to be the only persons present for the majority of the birth, alongside my midwife.
Although the consultants were not entirely happy with my plan they appeared to have accepted it. However as the weeks went by things took a turn and I was called in for more and more regular ‘meetings’. The stress of these meetings was starting to take its toll on my husband and I. We were being labelled as an ‘issue’, and were made aware that higher bodies were discussing our ’case’. We felt this was totally uncalled for. I was in extremely good health and had no underlying health issues that could affect the birth, no increased BP or signs of pre-eclampsia and regular growth scans showed that both girls were doing extremely well. Despite all of this we were bombarded with comments about putting our babies at risk of dying and constantly reminded about the risks of stillbirth past 37 weeks. This scare mongering was very upsetting as our babies health was always at the fore front of our mind and any decisions we made were always informed decisions. No actual facts or figures could be presented to us when we requested them and our own research showed that the majority of risks for twins surrounded identical twins and those sharing a placenta. Our girls are fraternal and were in separate sacs with separate placentas.
In our eyes we were the ideal candidates for a natural twin birth. The babies and I were in good health and twin one was head down throughout most of my pregnancy and showing no signs of changing as I approached the third trimester. Twin two was breech but I was told this shouldn’t be a problem for a vaginal birth as she may move once twin one was born. As it happened I felt a strong pressure in my side as I approached 36 weeks, followed by a dizzy spell. This pressure was twin two changing positions. She was now head down too, so even though I was being advised to book an elective c section or induction at 37 weeks I saw no medical reason to do so.
At 38 weeks I had had enough and made the brave decision to change hospitals. The staff at my new hospital were much more in favour of natural twin birth and supported and respected our wishes. We agreed to regular weekly monitoring and additional scans to check babies and placenta health. This seemed like a fair compromise and I was pleased to hear that the midwives supported hypnobirthing mums and could see its benefits for mum and baby. Everything was progressing well and at 38 & 39 weeks I agreed to a sweep to move things along a little. This seemed like the most natural intervention I could endure. However it was an awful experience and at 40 weeks the babies had still not arrived, so clearly my body was not ready. We still wanted to avoid induction and so I had some alternative therapies including acupuncture, reflexology and a hypnosis fear release session with friends. I felt a million dollars and slept peacefully that night.
At 40 weeks and 2 days my labour started spontaneously. I felt a pop and excitedly woke my husband. It was strange as I was sure my waters had ruptured but there was no water in sight. Once at the hospital I was pleased to see the birthing room I wanted was free. It was spacious with a large birthing pool and natural landscape on the wall. At this point we called Tamara, our doula and friend, despite the time being just 2am she ventured down to join us. The next few hours passed peacefully. I had dimmed lights, relaxing music and the two most important people with me. They were a great support system and stopped any un-necessary interruptions. The pressure in my back was getting stronger and stronger so my doula advised that I keep changing positions. I leant over my birthing ball and rocked peacefully whilst my husband massaged my back. My doula added a heat pack and it was such a great relief. I think I even snoozed for a little while.
At around 6am I requested to get into the birthing pool but after checking me the midwife on duty didn’t feel I was far enough into established labour. This happened with my first pregnancy too. If you are calm people often assume you are not very far on but I just knew things would increase rapidly from that moment on. My doula was very supportive and said, ‘just remember it is just a number, you are doing great’. By the time the midwives changed morning shifts I was in the pool. I felt urges to bear down and the pressure in my back was becoming more intense and very different to what I had experienced with my first birth, I now know that this was probably because Emily was back to back but we had no idea that this was the case at the time. I continued to use my hypnobirthing surge breaths in between surges to stay calm and relaxed. My new midwife was amazing. She had experience of twin birth and immediately put me at ease with her confidence and calm persona. She could see that my labour was progressing quickly and requested I get out of the pool for some intermittent monitoring but gave me the choice to return if I wanted to. I was offered gas and air and used it to change positions.
By about 8.30am I was upright on the bed, leaning over my ball and rocking back and forth. I made some humming noises as I rocked back and forth and this helped me stay relaxed. Another hour passed and I decided to lean over the back of the bed. Being in this upright position felt comfortable and I was able to rest a little between surges. They were now coming very frequently and I was advised that I was fully dilated. At 10.21am Emily Grace was birthed gently into the world weighing 7lb 5oz. She didn’t make a sound but instead just looked up at me, she was so calm and relaxed. I was able to hold her in my arms while I waited for her cord to stop pulsating.
Five minutes passed and my surges were yet to return. I was asked to turn around and was shocked to find a room full of medical professionals, I was so deep in self hypnosis that I had no idea they were there! My midwife was very impressed and told me that it is rare for a mum to birth a back to back baby without any interventions. After a further ten minutes I could see that the medical professionals were getting uneasy as my surges had yet to return and they had started to prepare a drip. After getting through my entire labour without any interference from others I was reluctant to let it happen now. My doula could see that I was uneasy with this and advised that I try latching Emily onto the breast as this may help them return. I started to feel some mild surges and so my husband and Tamara helped me get back into the upright position. Ben held my hand and told me that I was doing great and that he was so proud of me. Tamara held Emily so that I knew she was in safe hands.
Within less than five minutes Eryn Roses’ head was birthed. This time it felt so fast. Eryn was in the perfect birthing position with her waters intact. I remember a silent wait for her body to emerge and then she just appeared weighing a healthy 6lb 15 1/2oz. I couldn’t believe that both my girls were born with their waters intact. This is seen to be rare but very lucky. I felt so blessed that they were both born safely into the world. We waited for Eryn’s cord to stop pulsating and then both girls were returned to me for skin to skin. I remember just staring at them, amazed that my birth had gone exactly as I wanted it to. Both girls immediately latched on to feed and I was so proud of them.
About half hour passed and I was advised to have the injection to aid the placentas delivery. I was a little anxious about this after my previous retained placenta and more than anything I did not want a repeat of that experience. I did not want to be taken away from my babies. Ben watched the girls and Tamara held my hand. Just having her there with words of encouragement reminded me that I could do this. Sure enough within about another fifteen minutes I birthed the placenta. I remember being amazed by its size and noticed that both girls placentas had merged into one giant one. We chose to keep the cords and Tamara had them arranged in a heart shape. Every time I look at them I am reminded of my wonderful birth experience. I had no stitches and was told that if I wanted to I could go home that morning or if I preferred I could stay on the midwife led unit for a night. This is unheard of at The Princess Alexandra hospital but the medical professionals were so proud of my birth and the way it went that they saw no reason why I should be denied this relaxing opportunity. I had a lovely stay with my girls and drove myself home the next morning.
My amazing birth experiences have led me to my recent Wise Hippo instructor training. Now that it is complete I cannot wait to begin my classes and empower other women to make confident, informed decisions about their special births. After all, every woman deserves the right to have a wonderful birth experience! You can find out more about me and my hypnobirthing classes at www.birthingcalmly.co.uk
As every new Mum knows, the high street and internet are full of hundreds of baby products for new parents to choose from. Even though my girls are now 4 and 7 the choice of bibs for example has multiplied to another level since they were being weaned. I am a self confessed shop-oholic, so when it came to buying bits for my babies I was of course scouring the baby boutiques for the ‘must haves’. ‘Of course we need a cream cashmere baby blanket’ I said to persuade my sceptical husband. And of course he was right, we didn’t need anything that was hand wash only.
What I wish someone had really told me, was what I actually need that didn’t break the bank. Essential baby bits that create better quality sleep, stimulate your baby enough to make them sleep, help through those tricky teething days and products that wash and travel well. So when I was asked by one of my women who is almost due, what essential items I would recommend, I did a bit of research and came up with these brilliant 10 items! Enjoy.
Images: c/o Babydino.com
- These brilliant Buggy Clips weren’t around when I had my first daughter but I’ll admit I stalked a mum in Sainsburys who had one dangling off her buggy just to get a closer look. No more shoving all your shopping bags under your minuscule buggy basket, these sturdy clips are great and fit all buggy types.
- A sleeping bag is an absolute must for when your baby out grows being swaddled. No more baby getting cold from kicking off his blankets in the night! These Gro Company sleeping bags start from new born and go up to 36 months. And with so many gorgeous designs to choose from throughout the seasons you’ll find it a permanent item for your baby’s bedtime routine.
- Another genius idea from the Gro Company is this portable black out blind. Once you’ve got home life sorted, it’s time to re-engage your social life and stay at friends houses. All I can say it once you’ve slept in a guest room with a flimsy curtain when your baby is use to their blacked out bedroom, you soon realise why this blind was created. It fits any type of window and we still take ours abroad with us on Summer holiday each year. Thank you Gro Company.
- I’ve banged on before at how much I think swaddling is the key to settling an unsettled baby and I literally could not have survived without giant swaddles. Mopping up baby sick, catching the milk drips, and now my 4 year old takes her ‘muzzie’ to bed, these basic but essential pieces of fabric should be in every new mum’s baby bag.
- Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to provide the best nutritional start for your baby’s life. But it’s a skill both you and your baby need to learn, it takes time and patience and can be back breaking. My shoulders were permanently hunched over until my Mum bought me one of these. Great for giving you arms extra support and ensuring your baby is in the correct ‘tummy to mummy’ position. This Chicco Boppy pillow has a removable washable cover and can be used as a support pillow as your baby learns to sit up.
- I remember one friend telling me her newborn only settled when she did the hovering or ran the shower. Nonsense I thought until I had my own baby and tested this out. Luckily the Cloud B on the go Sleep Sheep (try saying that after too many glasses of wine) is far more practical than taking your Dyson out with you in the park. This can easily clip onto your pram or car seat and plays an array of noises aimed to help soothe your baby to sleep.
- So you’ve made the transition to being out and about but you know come 2pm you little one is going to need her afternoon nap. Until I bought one of these, I would make the trip back home to ensure my daughter was asleep in her blackout bedroom. But this Snoozeshade does just that – without you having to leave the pub! It also works brilliant on very hot days as it helps block 99% of harmful UV rays.
- No child can go through it’s teething life without owning a Sophie The Giraffe, so popular that I’m sure they hand them out when parents leave the hospital in France. Rubber, soft and squeaky she is the perfect companion for all babies of any age.
- Driving your precious new baby in a car is a nerve racking experience for any new Mum, and when your baby is still in a rear facing car seat you’re constantly trying to turn around to check on them. This Diono Easy View Mirror is a perfect way for any parent to clearly and safely see their baby without taking your concentration off the road.
- From an early age babies love looking at black and white shapes. This lovely Chicco Baby Senses Rattle is light and easy to grasp, for the smallest of hands, perfect to stimulate hand eye coordination in young babies.
Oooo I do love a birth story and one from a midwife too! Abi has 2 children and shares her birth story here of her second child Linus now 6 months old.
As a midwife I’ve been privileged to have attended a lot of home births. My community mentor when I was a student midwife was a real home birth advocate and had a really high home birth rate for our area. I’ll never forget the thrill of getting those phone calls in the middle of the night to say a lady we had been looking after throughout pregnancy was in labour and to get there ASAP. It was a delight to see women at ease in the comfort of their own surroundings, relaxed and excited, interacting with their birth partner as normal, free from any of the “rules” in hospital. Inspired by these women doing birth their way, I knew even then when it came to having my babies I wanted to have them at home.
I’d been booked for home birth in 2011 with my daughter, but unfortunately needed inducing the week before my due date due to static growth and reduced amniotic fluid. However I still had a really positive experience, labouring in the pool and having a quick birth on dry land after about 6 hours of established labour.
However, when I got pregnant with my son I knew right away I would have him at home, all being well. It’s not even as if I’m particularly emotionally attached to our house, but having been through two horrendous hyperemesis pregnancies I felt even more strongly that hospital was not the place for me, having spent so much time there being rehydrated and patched up. I also felt keen to end my baby making days in the best way possible, to get, if you’ll forgive the word, some “closure”. Luckily apart from “just” the hyperemesis my pregnancy was pretty normal other than a bout of anaemia at 36 weeks. However, this wasn’t going to stop me achieving my dream of a home birth at the last hurdle, and a week of ferrous fumerate tablets and intensive spinach consumption sorted that out!
We’d hired a La Bassine birth pool from WaterBaby Birthing Hire and can thoroughly recommend their services. I’d also ordered a TENS machine as it had helped me so much with my first labour. I’d prepared home birth boxes rather than hospital bags with everything we might need for me or the baby, so my husband knew where to look or to just grab the boxes should I need transferring to hospital at any time. We had plenty of old towels and sheets as well as the essential biscuits and drinks for the midwives. We were good to go.
Having been induced before I had no idea when or how this baby might begin to come. It turned out he decided to come at the same gestation as his sister, 39+3. I’d been in a foul mood the night before (exactly 6 months ago tonight as I write this!), having been really sick that evening. I even text my midwife to tell her how fed up I was! She said in hindsight when she got that text she knew I was going to go into labour that night! As I went to bed I remarked grumpily to my husband what a state the house was in and how it was a good thing I wasn’t going to go into labour that night. Little did I know!
I woke up at 2:30 contracting out of the blue and they were regular, every 6 minutes, but short lasting. My husband was asleep in our daughters room, so I pottered around for a while doing jobs to make sure this was it before waking him. Quite soon the contractions went to every 2 minutes but still only lasting 30 seconds. However, by 4am they were still in this pattern so I felt sure the baby would be arriving that day so woke my husband with that old cliché “it’s time!”
I’d decided against having my daughter there for the birth. I would have loved her see her brother born but it would have been selfish of me as she is a sensitive soul and I was concerned I might get quite vocal during transition! So we called my parents to come collect her and they arrived at 6am, along with my wonderful midwife who I’ve worked alongside for the past 8 years and who looked after me so well through my awful pregnancy. I’ll never forget the look of excitement on my daughters gorgeous sleepy face as she came downstairs as usual that morning and saw us all standing there in the living room!
I put the TENS on and sat with my midwife chatting and having breakfast while my husband busied himself with setting the pool up. I still wasn’t in established labour but as I only had a 6 hour labour with my daughter we all knew it could kick off any time. Slowly but surely the contractions started lasting longer and became stronger. By about 8am my midwife encouraged me to get in the pool and I resisted thinking it was too soon, but soon changed my mind and was glad I did. The warm water is so wonderful and instantly relaxed me. I spent another couple of hours breathing through the increasingly strong contractions with the support of my husband and midwife.
At 10am I was struggling slightly so asked my midwife to examine me. I was 5cm dilated with intact membranes. At this point I felt I still had forever to go and asked for some entonox as it had helped me when I had my daughter. I remember feeling quite panicky at this stage, thinking it would be hours and hours and it was like a switch had flipped inside me. My midwife head had gone right out the window and although I was clearly in transition I *might* have started shouting for a hospital transfer, an epidural, a caesarean, anything to stop the pains coming. My husband told me this is exactly how I was in the final stages with my daughter but I couldn’t really make out anything anyone was saying to me.
Soon after something rather odd happened and I’m sure you’ll think I’m crazy but it was the most intense and strange experience I’ve ever had. Suddenly it felt like my head was underwater (it wasn’t!), like when you’re at a swimming pool and an hear the echoes of voices all around but the sound is muffled so you can’t make anything out. Time seemed to slow right down, almost to a slow shutter speed. It was almost like an out of body experience, but maybe I had just had a wee bit too much entonox! I wasn’t afraid, I just told my midwife I needed to push but was worried it was too soon. She told me to follow my body but I was convinced it was too early, however the urge was suddenly too strong to ignore.
After a couple of small pushes I felt everything stretching, and the midwife told my husband it was the bag of waters bulging outside my body. I remember thinking to myself “right, that’s how it will feel when he comes so just bloody get on with it!” and just breathed on the entonox as I felt his head emerge soon after. With the next push, at exactly 11:11am, Linus was born in the pool and I reached down to pick him up and bring him to my chest. We have a lovely video me holding him straight afterwards and I’m laughing and shouting “I did it! I did it!” It makes me well up with pride and love just thinking about it.
I wanted a physiological third stage so pushed my placenta out in the pool about 20 minutes later. My midwife helped me out of the pool and checked me for perineal trauma but I didn’t need any stitches, which I was thrilled about having had a small episiotomy with my daughter. I breastfed Linus while my midwives did the paperwork etc and my husband pumped the water out of the pool. Then after that I had a wee and a shower they tucked me up in bed with a sleeping Linus, and within an hour they were gone and I was sipping my first cup of tea in 9 months and munching on pâté with crusty bread!
As I said my hospital birth was a largely positive experience, but it can’t compare with the home birth. I’m struggling to put into words how wonderful it was to be in my own home with a midwife who knew me and allowed me the freedom just to follow my instincts. I was high as a kite with happiness and pride for about two weeks afterwards! Every day when I’m sat in our front room where he was born I smile to myself and remember how it played out that day. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”